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Karen Pinkus

Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature

Klarman Hall, Room K269


Karen Pinkus is Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature. She is also a minor graduate field member in Studio Art and a faculty fellow of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. She has published widely in Italian studies, literary theory, cinema, visual theory, environmental theory and cultural studies. 

She has several ongoing research projects:

On the Italian side, a book, tentatively titled Autonomia/Automata: Machines for Writing, Laboring and Thinking in 1960s Italy explores issues around labor, automation and repetition in Italian art, literature, design and film of the 60s.  In part, this work is in dialogue with contemporary Italian thought, especially as regards the question of the Autonomia movement, the refusal to work, and the question of wages.

She is also working on a new book on the subsurface in the time of climate change.

Karen’s most recent book, Fuel (University of Minnesota Press, PostHumanities Series, 2016)  thinks about issues crucial to climate change by arguing for a separation of fuel (perhaps understood as potentiality, or dynamis, to use the Aristotelian term) from energy as a system of power (actuality, use).  Fuel follows a series of literary, filmic and critical texts through the form of a dictionary (from “air” to “zyklon D”).  Fuel engages with literature, art and critical theory as they are central to analogy and in turn, to fuel itself.

Karen is on the editorial boards of diacritics and World Picture Journal.
For diacritics, she edited a special issue on climate change criticism (43.1), thirty years on from the influential issue on nuclear criticism.



  • Comparative Literature
  • Romance Studies

Graduate Fields

  • Art
  • Comparative Literature
  • Romance Studies